Privileges of a Peer During the Regency
In my latest Regency romantic suspense, The Earl Claims His Comfort, there are multiple questions regarding the peerage belonging to the book’s hero. For example, can a usurper force Levison Davids, 17th Earl of Remmington, from his seat in the House of Lords and the earldom? Rem is the second son of Morland Davids, 15th Earl of Remmington. Or is he? Both Morland Davids and Rem’s older brother Robinson have died mysteriously. Moreover, can Remmington consider an alliance with Miss Comfort Neville, whose father is a minor son of an Irish baron and socially well below the new earl? What rules governed such decisions? What were some of the advantages of being a peer? Some disadvantages?
To answer those questions, we first require a primer of sorts on the parameters set upon a man accepting a peerage. Before 1963, an English peer sat is the upper house of Parliament. (In present time, the House of Lords, because the Lords are not elected by the populace, are considered the second house, and the House of Commons is the upper house.) As a member of the House of Lords during the Regency, each English peer had to be a male, had to have reached a legal age (21), and had to have openly acknowledged his acceptance of the thirty-nine articles of the Anglican church. (see Church of England for more information on the Articles) You notice above that I said “English peer.” What of those from Scotland or Ireland?
Not all the Irish and Scottish peers were given seats in the House of Lords. Some were presented with an English peerage, which meant they would enter the HOL as an English peer, but not necessarily with the same rank as they held in their home countries. For example, The Duke of Leinster of Ireland was given the English title of Viscount Leinster and later as Lord Kildare (a barony). The viscounty of Leinster is the Peerage of Great Britain, while the barony of Kildare is the Peerage of the United Kingdom. However, some did not receive such peerages and were selected to represent their country in the House of Lords. Only a representative number of each were elected by other peers to attend the HOL. The Irish peers were elected for life, while the Scottish peers were elected for the parliament (from one general election to the next).
Scottish peerages (those created before the Act of Union in 1707) did not automatically entitle a peer a seat in the HOL. Instead, a representative body of sixteen Scottish peers of this group sat in the House of Lords. Scottish peerages created after the Act of Union entitled the peer to sit in the HOL, for they were considered peers of the United Kingdom. In the late 1700s and early 1800s, many Scottish peers who had been previously excluded because of the restriction of those created before the Act of Union were granted English peerages, which permitted them to sit in the House of Lords.
The Irish peers chose a group of 28 representatives to the House of Lords. This practice ceased in 1921 with the Irish Free State declaration of independence from Britain. [The HOL permitted those Irish peers who were sitting in the House of Lords at the cessation of the privileges in 1921 to continue to do so for life, but no further elections occurred. The Irish peers were no longer replaced when one of them died.
During the Regency, the Irish peers who were not elected as representative peers for the House of Lords could run for election and sit in the House of Commons. However, Scottish peers could not. Naturally, these were peers without English titles. By the Regency period, those with English titles were entitled to a seat in the House of Lords. Those Irish peers who did sit in the House of Commons lost privileges of Peerage, but did have privilege of Parliament.
Before 1832, the legislative power of the United Kingdom was held with a strong grip by a small group of aristocratic landowners. More than the simple control of the House of Lords, many peers also exercised control of the those in the House of Commons. One way to accomplish this was to have the peer’s heir and his minor sons and his nephews and his brothers stand for a seat in the House of Commons. This was an expensive undertaking—for the peer often paid for votes to the House of Commons, but doing so was considered money well spent for the control of key issues upon the legislative agenda.
Some viscounts, those with courtesy titles and not peerages, being the son/heir to an earl, for example, stood for a seat in the HOC, as did non-representative Irish peers.
One of the rights presented to a peer during the Regency period dealt with crimes such as treason or a felony. If a peer was accused of either, he would be tried before the House of Lords, not in an ordinary court, for those in the House were considered his peers, not the ordinary populace. This proves true only for the peer and his wife. All others in the family would face a criminal court. [I used this specific plot point in The Prosecution of Mr. Darcy’s Cousin. Although Colonel Fitzwilliam is the second son of an earl, he is still considered a commoner. Only the earl and his countess could exercise the privilege of a trial in the House of Lords.] This privilege remained upon the law books until 1948.
If a crime was committed by a peer, he could not be arrested during the 40 days before or the 40 days after a parliamentary session. He could not be expected to serve jury duty for an ordinary crime. He could not vote in a parliamentary election, nor could he stand for a seat in the House of Commons.
When a peer died, as long as the peerage was not bankrupt and it had been granted in England, Scotland or Ireland, the peer’s first born son would inherit the title. If the heir already sat in the House of Commons, he would resign his seat. The heir must have reached his majority, meaning twenty-one years of age. He also could not be considered a “candidate for Bedlam,” meaning a lunatic. After receiving a Writ of Summons from his king/queen, and not before, he took his seat in the House of Lords. He would be introduced to the other Lords, he shook the hand of the Lord Chancellor, and he quite literally took a seat on the designated bench.
Nancy Regency Researcher provides us another tidbit many of us had not considered. “When does a man have to pay for an honour or a promotion? The answer is when he gains a peerage, is made bishop, or is introduced to the House of Peers. We think of a man being created a peer as having received an honor, and seldom think of his having to pay for it. However, whether a man was created a peer for merit or succeeded to a peerage of his father or other relative, he had to pay a fee. He also had to pay a fee if he were made a bishop and an additional one if he was translated from one seat to a better one.
“These fees are called homage fees, and some sources think the fees were a substitute for knight’s service. There are also fees to have the creation or the succession published in the Gazette.
“When the peer makes his first appearance at the House of Lords, he participates in an old age ceremony for which a fee also must be paid.
“These fees were paid to the Receiver of Fees, who was a clerk in the House of Peers. In 1812 this was a Mr. Charles Sutherland.
Prince of Wales: upon creation – £703 6 8 Upon his first introduction to the House he paid £30.
A Duke paid £350 3 4 upon creation and £27 on first introduction.
A Marquis paid £272 10 8, then £19 6 8 upon introduction.
An Earl paid £203 3 4 upon creation, and £14 on first introduction.
A Viscount paid £159 7 4 upon creation, then £12 upon introduction.
A baron paid £150 upon creation and £ 9 upon introduction.
If a peer advanced in title, (If a baron was made a viscount or an earl) he was required to pay the appropriate fee.
Every bishop was required to pay upon his first Consecration and upon future promotions.
Promotion £14. The Archbishop paid £27 upon introduction.
This information is from the Royal Kalendar and the annual Register for 1812.”
Introducing The Earl Claims His Comfort: Book 2 in the Twins’ Trilogy, releasing September 16, 2017, from Black Opal Books
– a 2016 Hot Prospects finalist in Romantic Suspense
Hurrying home to Tegen Castle from the Continent to assume guardianship of a child not his, but one who holds his countenance, Levison Davids, Earl of Remmington, is shot and left to die upon the road leading to his manor house. The incident has Remmington chasing after a man who remains one step ahead and who claims a distinct similarity—a man who wishes to replace Remmington as the rightful earl. Rem must solve the mystery of how a stranger’s life parallels his, while protecting his title, the child, and the woman he loves.
Comfort Neville has escorted Deirdre Kavanaugh from Ireland to England, in hopes that the Earl of Remmington will prove a better guardian for the girl than did the child’s father. When she discovers the earl’s body upon a road backing the castle, it is she who nurses him to health. As the daughter of a minor son of an Irish baron, Comfort is impossibly removed from the earl’s sphere, but the man claims her affections. She will do anything for him, including confronting his enemies. When she is kidnapped as part of a plot for revenge against the earl, she must protect Rem’s life, while guarding her heart.
Barnes and Noble
Angel Comes to the Devil’s Keep: Book 1 of the Twins’ Trilogy
– a 2017 Daphne du Maurier Award for Excellence in Mystery/Suspense finalist
-a SOLA’s Eighth Annual Dixie Kane Memorial Award finalist for Historical Romance
Huntington McLaughlin, the Marquess of Malvern, wakes in a farmhouse, after a head injury, being tended by an ethereal “angel,” who claims to be his wife. However, reality is often deceptive, and Angelica Lovelace is far from innocent in Hunt’s difficulties. Yet, there is something about the woman that calls to him as no other ever has. When she attends his mother’s annual summer house party, their lives are intertwined in a series of mistaken identities, assaults, kidnappings, overlapping relations, and murders, which will either bring them together forever or tear them irretrievably apart. As Hunt attempts to right his world from problems caused by the head injury that has robbed him of parts of his memory, his best friend, the Earl of Remmington, makes it clear that he intends to claim Angelica as his wife. Hunt must decide whether to permit her to align herself with the earldom or claim the only woman who stirs his heart–and if he does the latter, can he still serve the dukedom with a hoydenish American heiress at his side?
“Here be his lordship’s discarded newsprints, Miss Neville,” Lally said as she entered Comfort’s quarters.
“Place them with the others,” Comfort instructed. “We should have enough soon to clean the windows in Lord Swenton’s library, and then we can present what remains to several of his lordship’s tenants to use in blocking out drafts for the winter months. It shan’t be long until winter pays us a call in Yorkshire.”
“You always be most practical,” Lally remarked.
In the month that she resided with the Swentons, Comfort had made herself useful in an effort to stay busy. Only when she fell into her bed at night in exhaustion did she dream of the Earl of Remmington.
“It is the least I can do,” she said dutifully. “Lady Swenton requires her rest, and my cousin is not easily persuaded to ignore her duties.”
“Ye do more than oversee the cleanin,’” the girl protested.
Comfort smiled knowingly at the maid. “Like my cousin, I simply permit those employed by his lordship to execute the work. Doing so provides the village with required income.” She appreciated the loyalty of the baron’s staff, but Comfort did not wish to undermine Isolde’s position in the household. “I insist upon participating in the household chores, so I can honestly report back to Lady Swenton.”
“Never thought of yer doin’ so as such,” the young maid admitted.
Comfort would add no more chastisements. It was not her place. “Would you add these stockings to the laundry?” she asked instead. “I fear the path to Mr. Sevan’s house was muddier than I expected.”
“Certainly, miss. Would ye be requirin’ anything more?”
“No. I am thinking of reading some of the newsprints before we present them to the others. I hold no knowledge of the comings and goings of those mentioned, but I assume if I am to live in England, I should become aware of what is considered important. Afterwards, I shall sleep. Tomorrow will be a busy day.”
“Then good evenin’, Miss Neville. If’n ye require me, just ring.”
With that, the girl was gone. Comfort sat upon the vanity bench to release her hair from its coiled braid. Taking up the brush, she slowly groomed each strand into place.
“Little good does it do me to tend my hair so,” she sighed. “No one will ever see it down.” She was not customarily of a sour nature, but Comfort could not shake the maudlin that had plagued her of late. “What did you expect?” she asked the reflection staring back at her from the cheval mirror. She swallowed hard to stall the tears rushing to her eyes, and tentatively her fingers touched her mouth. Was her bottom lip truly trembling? “He cannot marry you, and you will not accept the role of the earl’s mistress,” she insisted as the first tear escaped. “The Earl of Remmington must look above you for a wife.”
With a sigh of resignation, Comfort stood to remove her day dress, stays, and chemise before donning her nightrail. In distraction, she paused to organize the drawer where she kept her intimate wear. “Something else the earl will never know of me,” she whispered as the clothes were refolded. At length, she carried a candle to the bedside table. Catching several of the folded over newsprints in hand, she crawled into the bed.
“Nothing can be done for your regrets but to carry on,” she said as she propped the pillows behind her and took up the first print. “Keep your mind on what can be controlled. The loss of his lordship will lessen with each day.”
Although tears still stung her eyes, Comfort studiously read each of the articles upon the various pages. Some of what transpired as newsworthy was as foreign to her as if she attempted to read Chinese. It always surprised her that two countries so connected in history could be so distant in politics. Other papers, those less weighty than those that dealt with the business of Parliament, held more of her interest. Although Comfort bemoaned the lack of style within her wardrobe, she enjoyed the few adverts that spoke of the current fashions.
In time, her eyes fell upon a list of those who attended one of London’s parties thought appropriate in keeping with the mourning for the English king. A sob of anguish caught her by surprise, as she shoved her fist into her mouth to catch the sorrow choking her.
“He is in London,” she rasped. “It did not take Lord Remmington long to abandon Miss Deirdre to his mother’s care in order to join Sir Alexander in the Capital.”
Without considering her actions, Comfort slowly swiped her fingertip across the earl’s name. “I meant nothing to him,” she chastised, even as she ran her finger over the print a second time. “Lord Remmington will claim an English wife, and you will—”
Comfort could not say the words. Instead, she rolled to her side to pull her knees up to lessen the pain filling her empty heart. She shoved the newsprint from her way. “What did you expect? It was nothing more than a kiss. Your nature is not one an English man would wish to find in his children. You were correct. Lord Swenton is the aberration.” She permitted the tears their due. “You must return to Ireland as soon as Isolde is settled. You cannot remain in Yorkshire if Lord Remmington means to bring home a countess for his title.”
She caught a pillow to drape it across her face. For a brief instant, she wondered what it would be to press the pillow hard against her mouth and stop the breaths ripped from her throat—to deny the devastation pressing down upon her. Yet, as a Catholic, she could not take her own life. Such would be a passage to damnation.
Tossing the pillow aside, she accepted the fate God presented her. “You are already in a personal purgatory,” Comfort grated. “No reason for your remorse to last an eternity. Have your cry, my girl. Tomorrow you must pretend your heart is not rendered in two.”